What does it mean to be grateful? Why does gratefulness matter?
The Lord began to talk to me about gratefulness the other day, so I began digging into what the word means. I already had a sense that it was beyond thankfulness, so I pulled up several dictionaries in an attempt to gain greater understanding.
My sense was correct. Although the words thankful and grateful are synonyms and often used interchangeable, there are a couple differences. Thankfulness generally means being conscious of receiving a benefit or material good. Gratefulness goes a step beyond being conscious or receiving into being appreciative of what was received. Additionally, although both usually involve a moment of pleasure, gratefulness additionally involves contentment.
I think Philippians 4:11b-13, where Paul says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
As I look at this contentment that Paul carried and then look at my own heart and the attitudes of the society I live in, I see a disconnect. I was pondering this noticeable lack of gratefulness and contentment that I see in myself and in the world, and I felt like the world is always bombarding us with this idea that we don’t have enough. If only I had… (fill in the blank), then I would be content. Maybe it is in relationships or finance or the area of your job.
Our culture is also bombarding us with this idea that we are owed something. This sense of entitlement is growing. If we receive something we felt owed all along, then we aren’t very thankful or grateful for having received it. Especially if I still feel there are many other things I am owed that I have not yet received. Entitlement kills gratefulness.
The Lord also highlighted that when there is a lack of other kinds of good fruit flowing out of us, we should check our hearts for gratefulness. He was showing me that when our hearts are filled with gratefulness, things like kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and empathy flow out.
He challenged me, and I’ll in turn challenge you, with this:
Use kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and empathy as a test to see how grateful your heart is. When you notice a lack, ask God to adjust your perspective and fill you with gratitude for all that He has done for you.
Where is your heart with all of this? Are you in a place of thankfulness, of gratefulness, or are you living with a heart that is focused on lack?